Brumbies young gun Ryan Lonergan is bracing for a fierce scrumhalf battle this preseason, after the departure of regular number nine Joe Powell to the Melbourne Rebels.
Lonergan was on the fringe of Dan McKellar's squad during this year's Super Rugby AU title winning season, but was forced to watch the decider as a spectator with Powell starting at the scrum base, and Wallaby Nic White coming from the bench.
White is still several weeks off returning to preseason training, tied up instead with the Wallabies' Rugby Championship campaign which continues in Newcastle on Saturday against the All Black-vanquishing Pumas from Argentina.
But Lonergan still has Lachlan Albert and Isaak Fines keeping him on his toes in the first week back at training.
"There's obviously heaps of good halfbacks here, even with Whitey away with the Wallabies, there's Lachie Albert and Finesy," Lonergan said.
"We'll just keep competing against each other and we'll see how it turns out come round one.
"We can't really determine anything this early or ever really because it's always up for a fight. I'll just train as hard as I can."
Like all of his Brumbies' teammates, Lonergan's 2020 included debilitating bushfire smoke, an outbreak of mumps and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
But it was a niggling ankle injury that cost him a month out of McKellar's team, and prevented him from locking down a more permanent spot in the Brumbies' match-day squad.
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"It was quite frustrating, it was frustrating for everyone with the lockdown and stuff," Lonergan said.
"I thought I started the year pretty well and then we were excited to come back when we got to train together again, but then I picked up a niggling little injury in the last day of preseason and it kept me out for about four weeks.
"It gave other boys opportunities, and we won the championship so can't complain too much but personally it was a little bit disappointing. You always want to be out there...but it's a whole squad effort for us to win that championship. I was just proud and happy to be a part of the group."
Brumbies players not on Wallabies duty returned to training on Monday, and will be put through their preseason paces right up until a Christmas shutdown.
Thursday marks two months to the day since they downed the Queensland Reds in the Super Rugby AU final, earning McKellar his first major piece of silverware since taking the coaching reins.